Stanley Clarke
School Days



by ohcleverhansyou USER (39 Reviews)
November 26th, 2007 | 10 replies

Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A fusion classic still holds its own in the 21st century.

Jaco Pastorius gets a lot of credit for revolutionizing the bass, putting it front and center. Perhaps equally important, however, Stanley Clarke came out with School Days the same year as Jaco’s legendary debut album. While Jaco relied more on harmonics and standard (yet extremely challenging) bass playing, Clarke delved far more into slapping and bass chording (i.e. the influential title track). With its fun music and great musicianship, especially from Clarke, School Days is another essential album for the aspiring bass virtuoso.

“School Days,” “The Dancer,” and “Life Is Just a Game” have the sort of groove to be expected of a CD with a bassist as band leader. His light, bass chording that sets up “School Days” is simple, but effective enough to drive the song as the guitar goes crazy before joining Clarke. The title track is a beautifully layered, fun song, with some fun bass tricks thrown into the solo.

Both “The Dancer” and “Hot Fun” rely heavily on Clarke’s bass line, so there is little progression, and they come out as weaker, though still fun, tracks in the process. Stanley keeps the groove going, a good mix of experimentation and song sensibility, the band helps to keep him grounded. He writes fantastic bass lines, but in these songs the synths and strings aren’t up to par.

The other fusion elements do get a little imposing, especially the synths. This record was made in 1976, so the sound is a little dated, making for some boring solos, but Clarke’s playing is still very fresh. He pulls enough bass acrobatics with enough confidence to keep things interesting. For the finale, “Life Is Just a Game,” Clarke throws in some nice vocals along with nice, aggressive horns. It’s a good mix of slow and fast, before heading into the solos, with some of the fastest slap bass on the entire album. By the end, Clarke decided we might as well know there was no one who could slap like him in 1976.

On the slower tracks that Clarke shows his abilities as a song writer. There’s none of the slap bass or harmonics. In “Desert Song,” Clarke puts down a nice, subdued solo in a generally relaxing song, only to be bested by none other than John McLaughlin with a wonderful acoustic guitar solo. “Quiet Afternoon” is based around Clarke’s bass line and the simple, quiet piano chord progression, it works very well. The slow tracks are very relaxing, a nice shift from the faster, more groove-orientated tracks.

Stanely Clarke was a huge influence on the future of bass playing. While Larry Graham had introduced us to slap bass, Clarke made it an art, he pushed it to the limits, all while staying in the boundaries of good taste. In his efforts to see what he could do with a bass, he never lost the fun or the groove. Something that in 2007, he seems to have forgotten.

Recommended Tracks: School Days, Quiet Afternoon, Desert Song

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Comments:Add a Comment 
November 27th 2007


School Days is a really cool track. This guy has a lot of talent, but I prefer Jaco's playing to his personally.

November 27th 2007


I've only heard his self-titled album and his playing with Return to Forever, he's an amazing bassist and I actually prefer him to Jaco. Nice work on this review.

November 27th 2007


Good work, think I heard lester bangs talk about him in an interview, though it was negative I think. Doesen't matter, review is solid, probably check this out.

November 28th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the comments. It's hard for me to decide which I like better as a bass player, but as far as the music they put out goes, I much prefer Stanley Clarke.

January 20th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

On technicality, I would put Clarke ahead of Jaco. On the music itself, I also prefer Stanley. Funny thing is, I think Jaco has a more soulful sound to his music. His tone is fantastic, not that Clarke's isn't, but he does mask it with effects. Still a very great album none-the-less.

October 4th 2009


Album Rating: 3.5

Just listened to this. This dude is absolutely ridiculous at bass, I can't even imagine being as good as him even if I devoted my life to playing.

September 21st 2014


Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for rec-ing me this Torontonian. This was a hidden gem :P

September 21st 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

^No problem. :P

June 16th 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

Title track is insane

July 12th 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

Damn this thing flows really well

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